Giro d’Italia 2012: Caldes – Passo dello Stelvio

Another year, another crazy Giro stage. Seemingly sacking Angelo Zomegnan will not deter new race director Michele Acquarone from torturing the riders, though he has said the Giro will be more balanced in terms of its route in future. The fans, however, have voted for a monster stage to finish off next year’s race.

The twentieth stage of the 2012 Giro will take in the Passo del Tonale (last seen this year when Diego Ulissi won the controversial sprint), the climb to Aprica (also included in that stage, and twice in 2010), the tough (up to 14%) but short Teglio, and finally the revered Mortirolo and Passo dello Stelvio climbs.

The Mortirolo will be ridden for the first time from Tovo di Sant’Agata, making the ascent a little less steep than it is from the often-used route from Mazzo di Valtellina. Still 11.4km at 10.4% is nothing to be sniffed at. Finally, the riders will go on to (hopefully) ride to the highest finish in Giro history on the Stelvio. At 22.4km, and with an average of 6.9%, this is where we could see some GC hopes die just as the end of the Giro comes into view.

It is debatable whether this stage will end up being harder than stage 15 of this year’s Giro from Conegliano to Gardeccia-Val di Fassa, the seven-and-a-half hour slog that Mikel Nieve won from the breakaway, and surprisingly only six riders failed to make the finish of. Next year’s stage is shorter, and has a bit more respite before the final two punishing climbs.

A concern that comes with the announcement of this stage, however, is that the organisers could be trying to put all their eggs in one basket as it were. A lot like the Tour of 2009 in which the queen stage of Mont Ventoux was hyped up as the big final showdown, but the race had already been decided on the somewhat weak mountain parcours previous to the penultimate stage. Whereas it is certain that next year’s Giro will be toned down from the Zomegnan years, we should hope that the rest of the race isn’t effectively neutralised in order to ensure a big GC battle at the end.

Acquarone has professed his liking of the 2010 Giro, which was a massive success amongst fans, so here’s hoping that 2012 is every bit as exciting.

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